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Relational databases relatively poor at running digital transformation projects

Digital projects aren’t living up to expectations, with many only delivering incremental improvements to the status quo, survey reveals

A survey of 450 senior IT decision makers responsible for digital transformation initiatives has reported that legacy databases are holding back their projects,

The research conducted by Vanson Bourne for Couchbase found that while 94% of organisations are still using legacy relational databases, such as Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server, the technology was considered inappropriate for their digital projects.

According to the research, 41% of the IT decision makers who took part in the study admitted that some of their digital projects had failed because their legacy database could not support what they wanted to do.

At the same time, 29% said they had to reduce the scope of a project due to the cost of making changes to legacy technology, while 14% said they had to delay projects significantly. Vanson Bourne reported that just 16% said they had never reported any issues with their existing database technology.

The challenge for many businesses is that their existing relational databases have been engineered to collect transactional data – a transactional database management system (DBMS), for example.

The survey reported that 74% of IT decision makers found that the performance of new applications suffered when they chose to use their legacy database to support applications that engage with users.

Such applications often utilise increasingly complex, interconnected and varied data, which Couchbase believes makes them a poor choice for existing relational database systems.

According to Couchbase, the limitations of legacy relational databases are likely to become even more exposed because successful customer experience occurs in real time.

In a recent Computer Weekly article discussing the future of data management, Quocirca analyst Bernt Ostergaard wrote: “With the advent of cloud computing, hybrid datacentres and virtualisation, the downsides of transactional DBMS are becoming very obvious.”

Read more about next generation databases

Ostergaard noted that relational database applications tend to be general-purpose, and so are not suited for special-purpose tasks such as text stream processing. “They are also not good for applications that need real-time processing,” he added.

Organisations rarely have the luxury to spend hours or days responding to customer requests – the online experience has to be immediate. However, only 41% of organisations said they can use data in real time, as soon as it is recorded.

Matt Cain, CEO of Couchbase, said: “Key to succeeding is selecting the right underlying database technology that can leverage dynamic data to its full potential across any platform and deliver the personal, highly responsive experiences that customers are demanding today.”

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A major problem is that many techies, and even more decision makers, are ignorant of relational databases.  I'm not saying that relational DBs are perfect.  But the decisions surrounding them are made by people who don't know what they are doing.  That is the biggest problem with them.
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